Practice Relating to Rule 86. Blinding Laser Weapons
Section A. Laser weapons specifically designed to cause permanent blindness
The Military Manual (2005) of the Netherlands states: “It is prohibited to use laser weapons specially designed to cause permanent blindness. This means that lasers intended to blind personnel temporarily, known as dazzle lasers, are permitted.”
The manual further states that “[t]he question whether a non-lethal weapon can be used as a form of warfare will primarily depend on whether such a weapon”, inter alia
, “is not prohibited under other regulations such as the permanently blinding weapons mentioned above”.
In its chapter on non-international armed conflict, the manual states: “It is prohibited to use weapons causing unnecessary suffering or excessive injury, or that are indiscriminate. This means that … blinding laser weapons … are forbidden.”
In 1992, during a debate in the First Committee of the UN General Assembly, the Netherlands implied that universal adherence to the 1980 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons would give it effect in internal conflicts.
Upon acceptance of the 1995 Protocol IV to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, the Netherlands declared: “The provisions of Protocol IV which, given their content or nature, can also be applied in peacetime must be observed in all circumstances.”
A working paper submitted by the Netherlands to the First Review Conference of States Parties to the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (First Session) in 1995 evaluated existing customary law relating to the use of blinding lasers prior to the negotiation and adoption of Protocol IV. It stated that the “use of antipersonnel lasers whose sole purpose is to cause permanent blindness in military personnel is … illegal under the current laws of armed conflicts”. It noted, however, one possible exception to this under the then existing law, namely:
One exception might be cases in which blinding an opponent with a highly discriminate weapon such as a laser would be more humane than using a different method or means. This instance could occur if, for example, a sniper were to hide himself in a civilian environment. In this case other, more conventional methods of disabling the sniper can be expected to cause a large number of civilian casualties that could be prevented through the use of a laser.